Over the weekend, more than 60 Gassers, Altereds, Super Stockers, slingshots and other vintage drag cars made their way to Illinois’ Byron Dragway for the first annual Uncle Sam’s Pie Eating Contest. Hosted by Vintage Drag Racing 101 (the Meltdown Drags people) and sponsored by Radir Wheels, the Pie Eating Contest strives to bring back the look and feel of mid-’60s quarter mile action.
When was the last time you saw a pair of dueling inline-six powered slingshots? Here Ron Perrin in the “Agitator” (near lane) gets a holeshot on Mikey Brown in his “Seam Ripper” TE440 replica (far lane) at the first running of Uncle Sam’s Pie Eating Contest.
The premise is simple: no burnouts, no dry hops and piecrust slicks only. The cars must be pre-1966 and devoid of any modern accouterments. As you can imagine, this brought out an exciting mix of freshly built machines and long-lost survivors. There were high-riding Tri-Five Chevys and straight-axle Falcons, inliner-powered diggers and even a handful of strip-blazing Corvettes. Competitors came from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan and North Carolina.
There was no shortage of early Vettes competing at the Pie Eating Contest. Jim Hayes’ Indiana-based ’56 looked right at home on the strip with its nose in the air and Hilborn injected smallblock poking through the hood.
Meltdown Drags Association member Paul Zielsdorf says the lack of traction created a new set of challenges. “The highlight of the event was definitely the fact that the biggest motor or fastest car didn’t usually win,” he adds. “There was a Ford Fairlane at the event that usually runs in the nine second range at the Meltdown—he couldn’t get it out of the 12’s at this event. It became a drivers race!”
In the ’60s, many Gas class racers favored Tri-Five Chevy sedans over hardtops because of their lighter weight and the B-pillars added extra rigidity. Although that may be the case, Dave Beschta had no problem outfitting his bright blue ’55 hardtop for street and strip. Highlights include expertly sliced rear wheelwells, stock-style front suspension and a 2×4-equipped W-motor beneath the fiberglass tilt front end.
Since fun was the name of the game, the VDR 101 crew penciled an actual pie-eating contest into the schedule. As Uncle Sam watched on a very tall pair of stilts, competitors ate apple pie at a rapid rate.
By Saturday evening, the inaugural Pie Eating Contest was in the books. Here’s a photo recap from Brandon Miller and Dean Coryell, who made the trip to Byron to join the action. To learn more about the event, click here. Next year’s festivities are already in the works, and we will keep you posted as more details surface.
Where were you in ’62? Mike Johnson gladly put his American Graffiti ’32 through its paces at the Pie Eating Contest. With a chopped top, 4×2-fed smallblock Chevy and cycle fenders all around, the bright yellow Deuce was competing in the Hot Rod class.
Brandon Miller of Wake Forest, North Carolina, built his ’53 Mercury with events like the Meltdown Drags and Pie Eating Contest in mind. He semi-jokingly says he tried to keep things as period correct as possible without selling a kidney. From the five-spokes and the smallblock Ford to the two-tone paint and ’60s-style hand-lettering, we would say he nailed it.
The Tri-Fives were out in full force on Saturday. Here Eric Koopmeiners and his “Shiftmaster” ’55 chase down Robert Clothier in his ’57 four-door. The copper ’55 features a heavily setback 301cid smallblock Chevy, drilled I-beam—complete with transverse leaf spring—and a fiberglass tilt front end.
After a long hibernation, the Colson & Wood ’41 Studebaker Champion made an appearance at the inaugural Pie Eating Contest. When outfitted with a Hilborn-injected 301cid Chevy, the car was a C/Gas record holder in 1962 and dipped into the low-11s. Gordy Buetsch, the Stude’s current caretaker, plans to restore it, race it and then put it on display at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. Note the extra long ladder bars and Volkswagen front suspension. MDA member Steve Liberto owns the ’35 Chevy in the background.
Willys Gassers are a tough breed, and Warren Anderson’s ’41 hits all the right notes. From the straight axle and unpolished mags to the gray primer and blown Hemi, this one looked as if it rolled right out of the ’60s.
In TRJ #76, we published a photo of the Dorman-Koopman roadster’s chassis outside of Rich Conklin’s shop—and here is the finished product. Rich, the man behind Radir wheels, recently completed the Deuce’s 18 year restoration and brought it to Byron as a part of his display at the Pie Eating Contest.
The action wasn’t limited to Gassers, Altereds and dragsters. Bruce Maresh carried the traditional torch with his channeled ’31 Model A, complete with flathead motivation. Eddie Meyer intake, cycle fenders and chromed rear nerf bar lend ’50s flair.
Prior to this spring, this high-riding ’62 Corvette hadn’t moved under its own power in 51 years. Luckily John Reidenbach flipped the script, dropped in an 8-71-equipped big block Chevy and prepped the car for a whole lot more quarter mile action. We approve.
The Pie Eating Contest was full of firsts, including Jim Zielsdorf’s first trip down the quarter mile in the ’40 Ford coupe he and his son, Paul, restored. The coupe has hot rod history dating back to the late 1950s, and it’s now ready for both street and strip with flathead power. Sixty years ago, Jim was driving a ’40 Ford Tudor with 303cid Olds motivation.
We weren’t kidding when we said there was a pie-eating contest! Here Uncle Sam makes sure all participants were in compliance with the stringent “no hands” rule. Mike Johnson (left) took home top honors.